Monday, June 7, 2010

Shadowed by History

I chose to depict Thanh gradually crossing a monkey bridge connecting Vietnam and the united states. I felt that the tenuous yet firmly grasped structure served as Cao's best metaphor in traversing one world into another. Baba Quan, whose legacy is forever shadowing Thanh's, is depicted as the shadow in Vietnam. The bridge is at once an impetuous structure binding Thanh to Vietnam and a generation gap keeping Mai and her mother from relating to each other.

-David S.

An Easy Way Out?

I am contemplating the effectiveness of Thanh’s decision to free Mai from her culture by the means of suicide. Thanh’s rationale for her actions is that her death will have a liberating effect on Main and allow her to pursue her own life in American culture. I disagree with her reasoning, although I can see a reasonable thought process. She wants to free Mai to the human obligation, the Mother-Daughter obligation that Mai our feel like she has toward her mother. Personally, I also think that her mother’s reality of the weight of her past, and the traumatic pain that accompanied her with the act of suicide leaves Mai completely alone without anyone to support her as she goes through college.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

What Remains in the Heart

One of the most striking images in the novel was when Mai's father likens the communist strongholds as "leopard spots" in Vietnam. This image seems to resonate about what is happening in Mai's heart. The spots are representative of Vietnam in Mai's heart. Mai is attempting to become a part of the American culture that has been forced upon her but she continues to be tormented by those leopard spots.

the significance of a rice kernel

This scene is intended to portray the rice fields of Saigon. The rice fields symbolize so many things in the text-both good and bad. I separated the sky into two colors in order to illustrate this aspect. For instance, the "golden" sky is meant to reflect the "current of grace that runs through [the fields] (like golden light)" pictured on page 172 in Cao's text. However, as seen, the light in my drawing does "evolve" into darkness (the black color) as a means of representing the turmoil of war and even exile. The color red in the water is meant to represent the blood that was spilled in the war (among the luscious greens of the fields-emphasizing the contrasting memories that Lan Cao's family has of this specific terrain). I was really fascinated by the passage on pg. 172- especially when the mother says "She (i.e. Mai) has never known how it farmed, how it is loved, how a bowl of rice is also a bowl of sweat, a farmer's sweat, a mother's sweat." This really puts things into perspective- never take anything for granted-because someone, somewhere, sacrificed in order for us to have it.

In Mai's eyes, the essential elements of Vietnamese culture are precariously placed and can easily be shaken by science and her new American ideals. And yet for her mother, who knows how to easily navigate monkey bridges, they seem as safe and sturdy as ever.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mai and Thanh and written memories

The journal that Mai reads, that belongs to her mother, was a really interesting and valuable part of the novel as it actually lets us see, as Mai also is, a little further into her mother and the way her mother thinks and why she is the way she is. Earlier in the novel Mai describes her mother’s wedding photo and how she observes that her mother was once beautiful, there is a sense of disconnect and inability to relate to her mother. The journal provides a chance for Mai to understand her mother on a deeper level.

Because Mai is so much younger than her mother the way she experiences her life in exile and the way she relates to her Vietnamese past is very different than the way her mother experiences and relates to those things. Mai’s comment about the wedding photo is an example of the way Mai can’t really link her mother’s Vietnamese past with who her mother is now. The journals provide insight into the past that Thanh embellishes on but the journals only serve to create more stress for Mai as she struggles to hold on to her past. The descriptions of Baba Quan and the land and the life that they came from only serves to awaken a longing in Mai for Vietnam and for answers to questions that there seem to be no answers for.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

David B.'s Journal Entry: Thanh Rides Across a Monkey Bridge on Her Father's Back

We hear a lot about Thanh's childhood throughout the novel. Actually we hear a lot about the childhoods of both Mai's mother and grandmother. Yet we hear next to nothing about Mai's childhood in comparison. I drew the scene where little Thanh is riding on her father's back because it is precisely this kind of childhood memory that Mai does not seem to have. This memory is one of many that grounds Thanh to her old way of life and it's traditions. They are crossing a monkey bridge because this memory is one of the only things that Thanh was able to bring with her to her new world, it is her connection between her past and present. It also brings up some interesting questions such as why Mai doesn't have anything similar? The monkey bridge itself sort of represents Mai's connection with her mother, it appears whin and rickety but it is made of materials taken from the land, and should it break it would be easy to reconstruct. Also bamboo is a lot stronger than it looks, much like Mai's relationship with her mother.

~David B.